A party representing the interests of the Roman Catholic minority in Germany. It gradually emerged from the Revolutions of 1848/9, though it did not function as a national party until after German unification in 1871. From the 1880s onwards, and to a more limited extent after 1918, it could count on the electoral support of the majority of Catholics, which gave it a fundamental stability and thus a pivotal role in increasingly fragmented parliaments. As the failure of the Bülow Bloc showed, it became virtually impossible to govern without the parliamentary support of the Centre in the long run.
Despite its commitment to the monarchy, after World War I the party quickly accepted the Weimar Republic and became its central pillar next to the SPD. Towards the end of the Republic, under Brüning's leadership, it hoped to overcome the problems of the parliamentary democracy through cooperation with conservative elites. Brüning's willingness to rule against the parliament signalled the end of parliamentary democracy. In 1933 most centre parliamentarians voted for the Enabling Act after accepting Hitler's guarantees for civil and religious liberties. The party was dissolved in 1933, and refounded in 1945, albeit with little electoral success since most of its former members joined the CDU.
Subjects: Christianity — Contemporary History (Post 1945).